Found December 06, 2011 on
Over The Baggy:
When it was
announced that the Minnesota Twins
had a deal in place to bring back closer Matt Capps, the move has been met
with streams of vitriol for the obvious reasons.
The first and
foremost reason was that Capps’s 2011 season was a big bag of flaming poo.
Elevated back into the closer’s role after Joe Nathan returned prematurely from
Tommy John surgery, Capps struggled to slam the down shut. He blew nine saves –
second-highest in baseball last year – and his 63% save conversion rate was the
lowest among closers with 20 opportunities or more. Adding to the problem was
that Capps’s strikeout numbers, already a fairly low career rate for a closer,
took a nosedive, declining from 20% to 12% as hitters stopped missing on his
28th to August 18th, his season bottomed out. In 24 outings in that span,
Capps managed to convert just four saves while blowing three more. He allowed
12 runs in 18.2 innings and posted a gawdawful 3-to-7 strikeouts-to-walk ratio.
Even though it was downplayed in-season and the coaching staff talked about a “mechanical
problem”, I sourced
it to an injury problem based on his arm action. It was later in the year
admitted to having a “dead arm” and it was revealed more recently that his
forearm was strained.
matter worse, the Twins, by the grace of the restructured collective bargaining
agreement, were given a free draft pick for Matt Capps. Instead of being a Type
A free agent who the Twins would have had no interest in extending arbitration
to thereby unable to collect on any potential draft picks, the Lords of the
Realm granted Capps amnesty from Type A status – giving the Twins a
supplemental round pick (between the first and second rounds) – if another team
interested in keeping their internal pipeline of prospects flowing, this was an
ideal situation. It is this type of decision-making that keeps the Tampa Bay
Rays in continual contention while keeping their overall budget low. So, the
Twins would land another prospect and could redirect that money they would have
spent retaining Capps on another similar or better relief arm.
was because they believe that they wanted to curb their investment in this year’s
draft (they do have the number two pick as well as up to three more
supplemental picks if Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel sign elsewhere). Perhaps
it was because they looked at this year’s draft class and determined – like Keith
Law noted – it will be weaker than the previous drafts. Or perhaps they just loved the idea of the guy
who “takes the ball everyday” despite being hurt in 2011 and genuinely believe
he is poised for a rebound year. Whatever the reason, the Twins decided to turn
down the free draft pick that fell into their laps.
The idea of
declining free money is hard to fathom for this franchise, and that is the
hardest pill to swallow when it comes to analyzing this deal, but all else
being equal, I don’t hate it.
the belief that the closer’s role is often overvalued and overpaid on the free
market, I had encouraged
the Twins to holster their search for one, citing the methods of the
aforementioned Rays who have made fiscally prudent decisions by signing an arm
like Kyle Farnsworth – a guy who was written off as unable to handle high
pressure situations by Baseball Prospectus – only to thrive as a closer for
Tampa. There are plenty of arms on the market
that fit the same profile as Farnsworth and likely would have been obtained at
a similar pay grade (one-year, $2.6M). In many respects, Matt Capps also fits
in that group. Sure, he does have nearly the impressive strikeout pedigree even
when healthy as a Farnsworth but he throws strikes, limits base-runners and
could be signed at a reduced rate coming off the bad season. The $4.75M is
twice as much as what the Rays paid Farnsworth but it isn’t an outrageous
amount to hand to Capps (unlike the $7M they burnt on his last year) and,
according to Fangraphs.com’s valuation system, he’s been able to come very
close or match that value in three of his last five seasons.
The Twins believe
that Capps will have a bounce-back year and that is a completely reasonable
One of the
reasons his strikeout rate plummeted so greatly was undoubtedly due to his
forearm pain. In 2010 his biggest strikeout pitch was his slider as 20 percent
of plate appearances were strikeouts on that pitch. Additionally, hitters swung
chased after 39 percent of sliders thrown out of the strike zone. This past
season, just 7 percent of plate appearances ended on a strikeout from his
slider and opponents chased just 29 percent percent of all out-of-zone sliders.
Also worth noting is that his slider’s groundball rate dropped from 44 percent
in ’10 to 34 percent in ’11.
Capps’s Slider (2010-2011)
Pitch F/X data, Capps’s 2011 slider did not demonstrate nearly the same amount
of run and drop it did 2010. Also, velocity-wise he was throwing it nearly two
miles an hour harder this past year as well:
What you see
here is that whereas a majority of Capps’s sliders had a spin angle between 60
and 120 degrees in 2010, this last year a more substantial portion of his slide
pieces fell between 120-to -180 degrees – a range closer to that of a fastball.
So in 2011 his main secondary offering now looked more like his fastball and
hitters were able to either hold up their swing or punish the pitch.
Given his forearm
injury, it is easy to see why he struggled with his slider. The mechanics of
the slider require a fairly strong wrist/forearm combination to execute and
with a weak link in the chain, the results often are bad. So, with a healthy forearm,
I would anticipate a revival of sorts for this pitch and with it, an increase
in his strikeout count. Still, I can’t say with the utmost confidence that
Capps will be 100% throughout the 2012 season. As I outlined
last year, his arm action – one in which he ***** his elbow above shoulder
level – has been identified by biomechanics as an attribute that leads to arm
injuries and one that could have incited the forearm pain. Because of this
delivery, it seems there would always be the possibility of another flare up.
don’t think this move is as egregious as the crowd would like people to
believe. Yes, the draft pick decision was a wasteful maneuver but given both
the surplus of picks in the first and supplemental round as well as the fact
that the organization likely did not count on even having the Capps pick until
after the CBA was renewed, declining one is not the end of the world nor the
mark of a bad front office. In terms of the contract, the one-year deal for
$4.75M isn’t completely out of line. And, as I mentioned before, Capps has
managed to produce at that value level in the past and that is a substantial
savings for the cost of a free market “experienced closer”.
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The Minnesota Twins finalized their $4.75 million, one-year contract with closer Matt Capps on Wednesday.
By RONALD BLUM,
AP Sports WriterDALLAS (AP) -- A person familiar with the negotiations tells The Associated Press that closer Matt Capps and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a 4.75 million, one-year contract.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.
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